The Regional School Unit (RSU) 20 policy committee will not grant a request from local veterans who sought to provide high school students with information about alternatives to military service, Superintendant Brian Carpenter announced at the Board of Directors April 9 meeting.

Carpenter said the policy committee reviewed the district's rules governing distribution of non-school materials, but decided to leave the policy as it stands.

"It was the wishes of the committee that we not change that policy," said Carpenter.

At the March 12 RSU 20 meeting, the policy was at the heart of a request from Belfast residents Stephen Allen and Dan Avener, who came to the Board to speak on behalf of the nationwide organization Veterans for Peace, to which both men belong. Both men, said Allen, are veterans of the Army.

At that time Allen told the Board he felt military recruiters had an unfair advantage when it came to luring high school students into military service after graduation, because they are one of the few groups allowed to distribute materials in public schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In addition, the law requires the school to turn over names, addresses and phone numbers of each student to the Department of Defense.

Allen said, based on his own military experiences, he sees many of the promises made by recruiters as false, particularly the promises that students will be trained in ways that will give them better chances to land jobs when they get out. Also, Allen said, he’s seen some recruiters promise the youths they can choose the location of their assignment — Hawaii tends to be one of the locations recruiters highlight when speaking to students.

Earlier this year, Allen and Avener expressed interest in setting up in the high school lobby to distribute alternative information from the Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense, Veterans for Peace and the American Civil Liberties Union to give students a more accurate picture of what military service is like. The men also hoped to offer students ideas for careers, as well as information about the Peace Corps and the AmeriCorps Vista program. But those plans were dashed after the duo were informed that the district policy does not permit such activities.

“Our position is that particular ruling is too restrictive,” said Allen, noting that Avener made a similar presentation at the high school two years ago.

At that time, Carpenter told the Board a change to the policy might mean the district would see increased requests for the same allowance from other organizations.

“It’s up to the Board as a whole, but remember, others will come forward to ask for the same privilege,” said Carpenter.

In a March 28 letter to the Portland office of the American Civil Liberties Union regarding the March 27 decision of the RSU 20 Policy Committee, Allen outlined his frustration with the decision of the committee.

"The policy committee met and recommended to the school board that they turn down our request. No reason was given other than it would 'open the flood gates to people wanting to distribute materials in the school,'" stated Allen. "We still feel that by law, we are entitled as a responsible group to do this. Our primary goal in wanting to do this has been to save a few lives and mental health of students who don’t realize the implications of what they are signing up for."